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Protect your association’s brand with online community guidelines

To protect your association’s brand, your online community must remain a safe, orderly place for members to gather. 

These tips will help you build your association’s online community guidelines. 


By Christine Bergeron, Marketing Coordinator, Community Brands



Your association-branded online community is a great place for members to connect with each other and your organization. It helps keep members engaged and encourages member loyalty. 

But to help protect your brand, your online community must remain a safe, orderly place for members to gather. Establishing a set of guidelines for your online community can help.  

Guidelines help set a standard for how members should interact in the community. They also help to define under what conditions certain interactions might be moderated. 

Creating guidelines for your online community might sound like a tall order. But it can be relatively simple.  

Here are a few tips to help you build your association’s online community guidelines: 

Keep them brief. 
Your online community should encourage members to share information and ideas. So, your guidelines should not feel oppressive to your members. They also shouldn’t feel so long that members don’t want to take the time to read them. A general rule of thumb: keep them to a single page, or no more than about 500 words.

Tie them with your mission and brand. 
An online community is a place for your members to connect with each other and your organization. Much as you would connect your association’s brand and mission with activities such as your annual conference, it’s important to tie your guidelines to your mission and brand. 
Here’s an example of wording you might use: 
Welcome to the online community for [your association’s name]! This is the place where [audience] can [purpose/goals of the community]. In keeping with our organization’s mission of [mission], we offer the following guidelines for how to use the community to engage with each other.  
This introduction to your online community guidelines helps set the tone for community interactions by emphasizing the importance of respect for each other on the community. 

Offer some examples.
At the same time, it’s also important to provide examples of inappropriate and unacceptable behavior. It’s impossible to provide guidelines and examples of every possible scenario of poor online community behavior. So, consider providing a short list of fundamental guidelines. For example:

  • Unacceptable usage, such as self-promotion or business advertisements 
  • Unacceptable content, such as obscene messages and materials 
  • Inappropriate behavior, such as defamation, bullying, and hate speech 
  • Inappropriate practices, such as commenting in ways that contradict the association’s code of ethics, take conversations off topic, sharing of personal information, illegal activity, and unauthorized use of content 
  • How to report or handle complaints and feedback, such as contact information for your community manager or moderator

Explain how you’ll enforce guidelines.
Let community members know your process for enforcing community guidelines. For example:

  • What is the review process for possible violations? 
  • What is the penalty? For instance, are there levels of penalties for members who violate guidelines repeatedly? 
  • What behavior will result in suspension from the community? 
  • Will you remove posts that violate your guidelines?

Make guidelines easy to find. 
Be sure to place your guidelines somewhere that’s easy for members to find. For example, place a link to your guidelines in the online community footer. Try to keep the link in the same place, versus moving it around frequently, so that members know where to find it when they need it. 

TIP: Using YourMembership association management software online community functionality, you can pin your guidelines to the top of the online community to make them easy to find.  

Learn more.
Learn more about establishing and protecting your association’s brand: Watch the on-demand webinar, How to drive value and growth with member personas.


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